Be Ready To Write
I heard the rumors from my friends who have studied in Europe that universities overseas expect students to write a lot more. However, I did not expect exactly how much writing I was going to end up having to do. The grades for my classes were based almost entirely on one or two papers and the final. These papers are not the two or three page papers we commonly write in the USA, but generally the shorter ones would be around 7 or 8 pages, with my longest term paper being around 20. Almost all of these papers will be due at the end of November, so if one procrastinates, they can easily end up with 30 or 40 pages to write in a 2 week period. Writing a few term papers wasn't fun, but I was pretty prepared to do so. What did catch me by surprise was finals week. Again, I was told that none of the questions would be multiple choice or matching, but I did not really expect how much writing I would have to do. I had five finals and they were all pretty similar. Generally, I was given 2 hours to answer 2-4 essays questions and expected to write as much as possible. I typically wrote about 5 pages for each final, so I ended up handwriting 25 pages or so just for finals during my last week in London. I wouldn't say that the finals were too much harder than at HPU, just a much different format which requires one to really know the material. One can guess on a multiple choice test and have a 25% chance of being right. One can't really guess on a 5 page paper.
Know How to Budget Your Money
A lot of college students aren't great at budgeting money. However, it is absolutely essential one learns how to budget their money quickly in London. Reason being, things cost about the same in British Pounds in London as they do in US Dollars in Hawaii. The only thing is 1 Pound is 1.6 Dollars. So what you're used to getting for $5 in a McDonalds in Hawaii, will now cost you $8. You want to buy a pair of shoes that normally cost $50, you have to pay $80. Instead of getting tickets to a soccer game for $100, now its $160. It adds up FAST. Then, one also has to consider that London is a huge city, and getting around costs way more than in Hawaii. Just taking the tube (subway) out and back can cost the equivalent of 12 US Dollars. And if you like to go to the clubs, just the cover at most places in central London is 20 pounds, or $32 dollars. There were classmates of mine that did not do a good job of budgeting and spent a huge portion of their money for the semester just in the first couple of weeks. Having fun in London is easy to do on a limited budget. It is just more important here than in many other places to keep track of exactly how much your spending, because, especially during a night out, it can get away from you quickly.
This is something that I found extremely important especially if one is studying with AIFS. AIFS does a great job of getting everyone housing and a meal plan, and making sure they are signed up for classes. The one frustrating thing about studying in London through AIFS, is they tend to house all of the study abroad students together, and the vast majority of the study abroad students are from the USA. For instance, my dorm probably had a little over 100 students in it, and I'd bet over 90 were from the United States. This meant that a great deal of the students in my dorm ended up spending their entire time in London just hanging out with other people from the USA. They all had a great time, but I did not come to London to hang out with people from the USA all day. This meant I had to make a conscious effort to go out and talk to new people. It was all completely worth it as I made new friends from Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Zambia, Nigeria, Germany, the Netherlands, El Salvador etc... In fact, two of my best friends that I hung out with the most in London were from Essex, England and Berlin, Germany. It was a great oppurtunity to meet people from all over the world, however, one really needs to make a conscious efffort to meet new people. That's not to say I ignored everyone from the USA, as I did become very good friends with people from all over the United States while in London, but for me, there had to be a balance. In the end, one can certainly have a great time just hanging out with other people from the USA while studying with AIFS, but the extra effort to meet new people from other countries is certainly worth it.
London is an amazing city. One can have a ton of fun roaming around London all semester, or one use London as a base point, and take advantage of cheap flights to explore Europe. Studying abroad in London is an incredible opportunity, but I would just keep in mind three things to make the most of your experience: Be ready to write, budget your money and make an effort to meet people from other countries.
Here are a few more pictures from my last couple of weeks in London. Check them out.
Another of Cambridge, rivers and bridges everywhere.
Fullers Brewery, definitely recommend the tour to a beer fan.
Fall in Kensington Gardens.
Kings Mediterranean off of Earls Court. The best place for a kebab in the city.
This is a park in Richmond, just up the hill from the Richmond Campus.
Alright, that's it for now. Check back in about a month when I start blogging about my next study abroad city: Buenos Aires, Argentina.